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Diageo - Debra Crew to replace CEO Sir Ivan Menezes

After a 10-year stint in the position, Diageo's Chief Executive, Sir Ivan Menezes is stepping down from the Board.

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After a 10-year stint in the position, Diageo's Chief Executive, Sir Ivan Menezes is stepping down from the Board.

The company's Chief Operating Officer, Debra Crew, will take on the top job on 1 July this year. Debra has been with Diageo in several positions since April 2019. She was President and CEO of Reynolds America at the time of its takeover by British American Tobacco in 2017. Prior to that she spent five years at PepsiCo where she held several management roles.

Sir Ivan Menezes commented: "I am delighted to be handing over the reins to Debra. In the time that we have worked together, I have been consistently impressed with her passion for growth and for building high performing teams. I am confident that under Debra's leadership, and with our extraordinary portfolio of brands and culture, Diageo will go on to deliver our long-term performance ambition."

The shares were flat in early trading.

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Our view

A change at the top is always a leap into the unknown, although slightly less so when the incumbent is already part of the team. Debra Crew is already a key member of the Board, and has a strong track record at some big names in the consumer staples sector. We're hopeful she will be a safe pair of hands, but there are no guarantees.

Double-digit revenue growth in the first half of this financial year, gave Diageo the confidence to reaffirm its medium-term guidance for the next few years.

The main driver behind the revenue jump is higher selling prices. The group's leaning on its brand power, and so far it's managed to hike prices without hurting volumes - testament to the impressive catalogue of brands ranging from Guinness to Don Julio tequila.

Whisky is also in the portfolio and is an especially attractive market because it takes a lot of up-front investment and time for a newcomer to compete. Good whisky needs to be aged, so a new competitor would need to be comfortable waiting for their investment to pay off. Alternatively, they could buy existing distilleries and spend heavily on marketing, but scaling up would be difficult and expensive. Strong brands and barriers to entry have meant attractive margins in normal times.

A growing middle class in emerging markets is also playing into the group's hands. It has attractive positions in the key Chinese and Indian markets, and as consumers move up the value chain, Diageo is waiting for them with Black, Blue and Double Black labels.

Diageo's current focus is to premiumise its portfolio, offloading a selection of smaller brands to shift the dial towards sales of more lucrative products. For now, that looks to be the right move as consumers willing to spend money on premium brands tend to be more resilient to cost of living pressures.

But investors shouldn't be holding their breath for more sets of double-digit growth. Sales aren't expected to stay at these levels for long, with organic net sales growth expected to dip down to mid-single digits over the next couple years.

Looking to the balance sheet, inventory levels have climbed as the group aims to avoid future supply chain disruptions. This has significantly dented free cash flow, as did payments to creditors after higher-than-normal lines of credit last year.

With a world class stable of brands and exposure to emerging markets, the group appears to be in an enviable spot. But keep in mind, its valuation means there's pressure to deliver and the current economic environment adds some extra risk.

Diageo key facts

All ratios are sourced from Refinitiv. Please remember yields are variable and not a reliable indicator of future income. Keep in mind key figures shouldn't be looked at on their own - it's important to understand the big picture.

This article is original Hargreaves Lansdown content, published by Hargreaves Lansdown. It was correct as at the date of publication, and our views may have changed since then. Unless otherwise stated estimates, including prospective yields, are a consensus of analyst forecasts provided by Refinitiv. These estimates are not a reliable indicator of future performance. Yields are variable and not guaranteed. Investments rise and fall in value so investors could make a loss.

This article is not advice or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any investment. No view is given on the present or future value or price of any investment, and investors should form their own view on any proposed investment. This article has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and is considered a marketing communication. Non-independent research is not subject to FCA rules prohibiting dealing ahead of research, however HL has put controls in place (including dealing restrictions, physical and information barriers) to manage potential conflicts of interest presented by such dealing. Please see our full non-independent research disclosure for more information.

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Written by
Derren Nathan
Derren Nathan
Head of Equity Research

Derren leads our Equity Research team with more than 15 years of experience in his field. Thriving in a passionate environment, Derren finds motivation in intellectual challenges and exploring diverse ideas within his writing.

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Article history
Published: 28th March 2023